Best Practices in HR

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Chris Dyer
  January 1, 1970

How to Evaluate an Applicant Tracking System

Applicant tracking systems are designed to make hiring new employees a breeze, but deciding which one’s best for your business can have the exact opposite effect. An Applicant Tracking system can help you posting open positions, manage applicants, choose which to advance and hire, and even onboard – but not all systems approach this process the same way. Before attaching your company to a tracking system that underserves it, make sure to prioritize what you want it to do for you.

A common misconception of applicant tracking systems is that they all handle the same entire process. Some certainly do, but most are only there to assist particular stages of hiring. Make sure to note which hiring structures your company already has in place, and specifically which ones are already running smoothly. If you don’t need wholesale assistance throughout the process, don’t adopt a system that will turn your entire process upside down! Below, we’ve broken down a full hiring procedure, so you can focus on the aspects you need the most help with. By comparing your pipeline step by step, you can identify the best spots for a tracking system to come in and lift the load.

Job Posting

How long does it currently take for your company to post job listings? And how much longer does it currently take to manage them? It’s worth identifying if you’d like a system to automatically post the same listing across all job boards, or customize the listing from board to board. Just as importantly, are there any boards you absolutely need to prioritize (or avoid entirely)? This initial hiring stage is trickier than it looks, and many applicant tracking systems offer broader help than you might like here.

Applicant Management

What’s your priority when sorting through applications? For many jobs, a scoring system can be useful, even when simply comparing resumes. If there are specific job requirements every applicant is being scored by, an applicant tracking system can be a very useful way to rank them. Or maybe you want to score them all yourself. If that’s the case, make sure you adopt a system that allows for real-time notes, and easy sharing between hiring managers.

Speaking of hiring managers, what questions do you want them to ask? An applicant tracking system can standardize every interview, or personalize questions candidate by candidate. It can also automatically move those who meet your criteria onto the next round, or separate candidates into groups for review. Maybe you want to do all this yourself, but simply need help keeping track of everyone. The clearer you can map candidates across (arguably) the most difficult stage of hiring, the quicker you can choose the ones you like best. Finally, consider how automated you’d like your scheduling and invites to be. Do you want to keep a personal touch through this step, or is it too much to manage without help?


After choosing your preferred candidate(s), what steps are currently in place to hire them, and bring them onboard smoothly? An applicant tracking system can be a big help here, even generating the formal job offer. They can also tackle background checks and manage contracts, legal forms and 1-9s.

Different jobs also offer different benefits. A tracking system can deliver all of your new hire’s options immediately, or at least provide them a clear understanding of what’s available to them. Depending on the office, a system can also get your new hire up to date on office policies, standards and general expectations. Again, if any of this is something you’d like to handle personally, make sure you don’t adopt a tracking system that specializes in it.

Employee Management

Just because the applicant’s an employee doesn’t mean you’re done managing them. Many tracking systems continue to provide help once your new hire’s working alongside everyone else. From emergency contacts to benefits, scheduling, vacations, sick days and of course payroll, there’s a wide variety of departments the right software can continue to manage. In fact, many systems are designed to assist you more after hiring than before. It’s all a matter of priorities.

In Conclusion

Finally, get real about your current level of comfort…… with tracking systems in general. Do you require a system that’s accessible to all, or is your company savvy enough for intermediate (or even expert) functionality? It’s also worth deciding how integrated you’d like your system to feel, in the grand scheme of the office workflow. If you work for a company that’s constantly hiring, your needs will look a lot different than smaller businesses with steadier headcounts.

Most importantly, make sure you’re only adopting as many systems as you need. Preferably one. Having to coordinate multiple tracking systems that only handle separate steps in the process quickly becomes a recipe for exhaustion. Or at least decreased productivity.

Make sure to thoroughly audit your current hiring process, along with any future needs you anticipate within the next two years. You’ll be setting yourself up to adopt a system that’ll benefit you in the long run. Because if you’re investing time in automating what makes sense, make sure time’s a resource you’ll eventually be saving. You’ll know an application tracking system’s the right fit for you if you can picture growing faster and smarter with it – even before hiring the right people to help.

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